Maybe it took football to bring tens of thousands of fans to Minnesota in the middle of winter, but retired Minnesota Viking linebacker Chad Greenway says Super Bowl visitors will be surprised by all the Twin Cities has to offer. “You have to understand that it’s going to be cold, but if you dress and prepare, you can go and see a lot of things.” A father of four, Greenway says he came to Minneapolis to play football, and never left. “It’s a great spot to live.” He shares some favorite sites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Centennial Lakes Park ice skating, Edina
Just because it’s winter in Minnesota, it doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. Greenway recommends lacing up and finding a place to skate. “It’s cold and you have to figure out ways to embrace it.” One of the most popular parks in suburban Edina offers 10 acres of ice across three ponds connected by canals. There’s a warming house with snacks, fireplaces and skate rental. centenniallakespark.com
Science Museum of Minnesota
Greenway has spent a lot of time with his kids at this highly regarded hands-on museum, and if you’re traveling with children, you’ll want to visit too. “They have a lot of cool things.” Favorite stops include the towboat in the Mississippi River exhibit. “They love the wheelhouse.” smm.org
The Twin Cities has a vibrant theater scene, with professional companies, touring shows and impressive performance spaces, including the famous Tony Award-honored Guthrie Theater. Even if you can’t catch a show during your visit, the venue runs backstage, architecture and costume shop tours. guthrietheater.org
It may be hard to get a table at this bistro, but it’s worth a shot, Greenway says. It’s run by a James Beard-honored chef who earned a Michelin star in New York, and now attracts foodies from around the country to this lakefront bistro on the edge of the metro area. “One of the best chefs in the world brought his French cuisine to our sleepy little town. It’s a great experience.” bellecourrestaurant.com
High school hockey game
Football might be getting all the attention this week, but that’s no reason to overlook hockey. Greenway suggests tracking down an amateur match. “You can go to pretty much any high school hockey game and see a future Division One player. We push out talent every year.” Top area teams this year include Minnetonka, St. Thomas Academy and Edina. Find schedules at mnhockeyhub.com.
One of the nation’s best places to find a steak, this is bound to be a popular spot throughout Super Bowl weekend. “It’s really hard to beat. It’s just the top place in town,” Greenway gushes. mannyssteakhouse.com As an alternative, he suggests Burch Steak and Pizza Bar, which is open for lunch in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. burchrestaurant.com
The Mall of America offers more than shopping. The nation’s largest retail center includes a 7-acre indoor amusement park that Greenway’s kids love. “You can do everything from bumper cars to roller coasters,” he says. The mall expects to see a lot of action as the host site of Radio Row, where an estimated 150 media outlets will be broadcasting throughout Super Bowl week. nickelodeonuniverse.com
One of Greenway’s favorite wintertime activities is exploring the Minnesota countryside on his snowmobile. Visitors can do the same, renting a machine and zooming away on an expansive system of snowy paths. “You can make it damn near to Canada on a trail,” he says. But check with the operator first because many require renters to complete a safety course before heading out. minnesotasnowmobilerental.com
Start out your day with a bang at this quirky and kitschy all-day restaurant, located in an office building basement. It serves breakfast and dinner items throughout the day, and hosts a popular weekend brunch. “It’s got a great Bloody Mary bar, but they serve lots of food,” Greenway says. hellskitcheninc.com
Excelsior and Wayzata
These two small Lake Minnetonka towns on the western edge of the metropolitan area have attracted Minnesotans for more than a century. While they started as summer getaways, they now have full-time residents, including Greenway. The cities offer year-round appeal with shopping and restaurants. “They’re quaint little towns,” he says. excelsior-lakeminnetonkachamber.com, wayzatachamber.com/visitors